Last Saturday, Duke professor Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards joined Wake County Board of Education member Keith Sutton on the April 24th airing of Education Matters. The conversation centered around a particularly troubling problem in North Carolina, and indeed nationwide: African American students get suspended more frequently, and for longer periods of time, than their peers. Even more alarming is that the discipline disparity starts as early as pre-kindergarten.

While the problem is well documented, more resources are required to start tackling the discipline disparity in a meaningful way. Dr. Bentley-Edwards reminded viewers that the underlying problem is one of structural racism, saying “if your practices have a disparate impact, and you do nothing about it, then that’s where you’re supporting some institutional racism.” She highlighted the importance of training teachers to properly deal with children who have had Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES).

In fact, schools with behavioral specialists or dedicated psychologists have fewer suspensions because they can train teachers how to properly deal with students who misbehave – and it doesn’t usually entail sending them home where they lose additional instruction time and fall further behind.

Dr. Bentley-Edwards is an Assistant Professor at Duke University School of Medicine and Associate Director of Research at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Inequality. To learn more about her latest research, check Dr. Bentley-Edwards’ website here.